Constitution Requires the State to Reimburse Local Governments for Mandated Activities. State law tasks the Commission on State Mandates (Commission) with determining whether new state laws or regulations affecting local governments create state-reimbursable mandates. Typically, the process for determining whether a law or regulation is a state-reimbursable mandate takes several years. State law further requires our office to analyze any new mandates identified by the Commission as a part of our annual analysis of the state budget. In particular, state law directs our office to report on the annual state costs for new mandates and make recommendations to the Legislature as to whether the new mandates should be repealed, funded, suspended, or modified. Below, we discuss the County of Los Angeles Citizens Redistricting Commission Mandate, which is a newly identified state mandate funded in an amendment to the Governor’s 2023-24 budget.
Redistricting. Every ten years, in years ending in the number zero, the U.S. Census identifies (1) the number of people who live in the United States and (2) where people live across the country. The census shows changes in the number of people living in a jurisdiction and collects information regarding the demographics and characteristics of those people. In order to provide equal and lawful representation of residents across all districts of a representative body for a jurisdiction, district boundaries of elective offices must be redrawn every ten years after the federal government releases the findings from the census.
State Redistricting Process. The elective offices subject to the state’s redistricting process include members of the state’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, and the State Board of Equalization. Like most other states, California historically established new district boundaries through the state legislative process. However, beginning in 2008, the voters established the independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) and made the CRC responsible for drawing and approving new district boundaries every ten years with the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 in 2010. The CRC has established the district boundaries for two redistricting cycles, the cycles following the 2010 and 2020 censuses.
Local Governments Redistricting Process. Historically, a city council or board of supervisors was responsible for establishing their own new council and supervisor districts, respectively. After the creation of the CRC, some charter cities established independent commissions with the authority to adopt a redistricting plan independent of their city council. State law prior to 2016 did not allow counties or general law cities to establish such independent redistricting commissions. Some jurisdictions, however, established advisory commissions to recommend new district lines. One exception to this was the County of San Diego which requested a 2012 law (Chapter 508 [SB 1331, Kehoe]) that established its own independent redistricting commission. Subsequently, with the passage of Chapter 784 of 2016 (SB 1108, Allen), existing law now allows any county or general law city to establish an independent redistricting commission.
County of Los Angeles Redistricting. Prior to the 2020 redistricting cycle, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles established and approved new supervisor districts every ten years. In other words, Los Angeles County had not opted to establish its own independent redistricting commission as allowed by Chapter 784. That changed with the passage of Chapter 781 of 2016 (SB 958, Lara). Beginning with the 2020 redistricting cycle, state law now requires the supervisor districts of the County of Los Angeles to be redrawn every ten years by a 14-member independent redistricting commission. Chapter 781 established requirements for the composition and establishment of the redistricting commission as well as criteria, time lines, and procedures that the redistricting commission must follow when developing new supervisor district boundaries.
Pursuant to the law, the cost to support the redistricting process are incurred over three fiscal years because the commission is required to be created no later than December 31 in each year ending in the number zero and the redistricting commission is required to adopt new boundaries for supervisor districts before August 15 of the year following the year in which each decennial federal census is taken. Chapter 781 also requires the board of supervisors to provide for reasonable funding and staffing for the redistricting commission. Unlike Chapter 508, which established a similar redistricting commission for the County of San Diego, the requirements established under Chapter 781 were not requested by the County of Los Angeles. (State laws established at the request of local governments do not create a state-reimbursable mandate.) At the time, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors opposed the legislation.
Commission Determined Chapter 781 Created a State-Reimbursable Mandate. The Commission found that Chapter 781 requires the County of Los Angeles to do a number of activities that constitute state-reimbursable mandates. Some of these activities are one time for each cycle. For example, providing one-time training for each member of the county redistricting commission. Other activities are recurring during the three fiscal years of the map-drawing process. For example, the county redistricting commission is required to hold seven public hearings before drafting a map. With these activities constituting state-reimbursable mandates, the state is responsible for reimbursing the County of Los Angeles for much of the costs related to its redistricting commission. For the 2020 redistricting cycle, the Commission estimates that the cost of these reimbursable activities totaled roughly $1.2 million. Going forward, these costs typically will be incurred over three fiscal years every ten years. The commission estimates that the costs for the next redistricting cycle, following the 2030 U.S. Census, will grow for inflation and be incurred in 2029-30, 2030-31, and 2031-32.
Governor Funds Mandate Reimbursement Costs. On April 1, 2023, the administration submitted to the Legislature an amendment to the Governor’s 2023-24 budget proposal to include $1.2 million to reimburse the County of Los Angeles to staff and fund the Citizens Redistricting Commission during the 2020 redistricting cycle.
Bill Analysis Anticipated State Costs. When the Legislature considered Chapter 781, the bill analysis identified that the legislation would create “significant state reimbursable General Fund costs of at least several hundred thousand dollars every ten years.” The same year that the Legislature approved Chapter 781—requiring the County of Los Angeles to establish an independent redistricting commission—it also approved Chapter 784—allowing all counties and cities the option of establishing an independent redistricting commission. With the knowledge that Chapter 781 would increase state General Fund costs by at least hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Legislature approved the legislation that (1) shifted the responsibility for the redistricting process from the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to an independent commission and (2) anticipated state General Fund support for the activities required by the law that the Commission identified would be state-reimbursable mandates.
Fund Mandate. If the Legislature were to reject the Governor’s proposal to fund the mandate and instead suspend or repeal the requirements in Chapter 781 that the Commission identified as state-reimbursable mandates, the County of Los Angeles would then have the option to choose whether redistricting is done by the Board of Supervisors or by an independent redistricting commission. Because the Legislature took specific steps to require Los Angeles to use an independent redistricting commission while making it optional for other jurisdictions, no longer requiring such a commission in Los Angeles would represent a significant policy change. For these reasons we recommend the Legislature fund the mandate. Given that this is the first time the independent commission drew new boundaries and the process occurs every ten years, the Legislature has an opportunity to evaluate the requirements under Chapter 781 and determine whether those requirements led to more representative districts. This could inform modifications to Chapter 781 before the next redistricting process begins.